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January 20, 2022

Calcutta High Court quashed 1,083 reassessment notices and dismissed the Income Tax Department contentions

Calcutta High Court quashed 1,083 reassessment notices and dismissed the Income Tax Department contentions

Fact and Issue of the case

Common facts and issues involved in all these Writ Petitions as appear on perusal of relevant record and upon considering the submissions of the parties are that the petitioners are aggrieved by the issuance of impugned notices under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 on the ground that the same are barred by limitation and the respondent Income Tax Authority concerned, before issuing the impugned notices under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act, have not observed the statutory formalities under Section 148 A of the Income Tax Act as prescribed by the Finance Act, 2021 which are applicable with effect from 1st April, 2021 before issuance of notices under Section 148 of the Act on or after 1st April, 2021.

Issues arising in all the present Writ Petitions are purely legal and in all these Writ Petitions the assessees/petitioners have sought relief of quashing of the impugned re-assessment notices issued post 31st March, 2021 by the respondent Income Tax Authority concerned under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act, assessees/petitioners have also sought relief by way of a declaration declaring Explanations A(a)(ii)/A(b) to the Notification No. 20 [S.O. 1432 (E) dated 31st March, 2021 and Notification No. 38 [S.O.1703 (E)] dated 27th April, 2021 to the extent that the same extend the applicability of the “provisions of Section 148, Section 149 and Section 151 of the Act, as the case may be, as they stood as on the 31st March, 2021, before the commencement of the Finance Act, 2021” to the period beyond 31st March, 2021 as ultra vires the parent legislation, viz., The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Act, 2020 (hereinafter referred to as ‘ Relaxation Act, 2020’).

At the outset, all the counsels appearing for the parties jointly submitted that the issues involved in these Writ Petitions are covered by the decision of the Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the matter of ‘Ashok Kumar Agarwal –vs- Union of India through its Revenue Secretary North Block & Ors.’ (Writ Tax No. 524/2021) decided in favour of assessees/petitioners on 30.09.2021.

Observation of the court

The Court is of the view that as the Legislature has introduced the new provisions, Sections 147 to 151 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 by way of the Finance Act, 2021 with effect from 1st April, 2021 and as the said Section 147 is not even mentioned in the impugned Explanations, the reassessment notices relating to any Assessment Year issued under Section 148 after 31st March, 2021 had to comply with the substituted Sections. It is clarified that the power of reassessment that existed prior to 31st March, 2021 continued to exist till the extended period i.e. till 30th June, 2021; however, the Finance Act, 2021 has merely changed the procedure to be followed prior to issuance of notice with effect from 1st April, 2021.

This Court is of the opinion that Section 3(1) of Relaxation Act empowers the Government/Executive to extend only the time limits and it does not delegate the power to legislate on provisions to be followed for initiation of reassessment proceedings. In fact, the Relaxation Act does not give power to Government to extend the erstwhile Sections 147 to 151 beyond 31st March, 2021 and/or defer the operation of substituted provisions enacted by the Finance Act, 2021. Consequently, the impugned Explanations in the Notifications dated 31st March, 2021 and 27th April, 2021 are not conditional legislation and are beyond the power delegated to the Government as well as ultra vires the parent statute i.e. the Relaxation Act. Accordingly, this Court is respectfully not in agreement with the view of the Chhattisgarh High Court in Palak Khatuja (supra), but with the views of the Allahabad High Court and Rajasthan High Court in Ashok Kumar Agarwal (supra) and Bpip Infra Private Limited (supra) respectively.

The submission of the Revenue that Section 6 of the General Clauses Act saves notices issued under Section 148 post 31st March, 2021 is untenable in law, as in the present case, the repeal is followed by a fresh legislation on the same subject and the new Act manifests an intention to destroy the old procedure. Consequently, if the Legislature has permitted reassessment to be made in a particular manner, it can only be in this manner, or not at all. The argument of the respondents that the substitution made by the Finance Act, 2021 is not applicable to past Assessment Years, as it is substantial in nature is contradicted by Respondents’ own Circular 549 of 1989 and its own submission that from 1st July, 2021, the substitution made by the Finance Act, 2021 will be applicable.

Revenue cannot rely on Covid-19 for contending that the new provisions Sections 147 to 151 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 should not operate during the period 1st April, 2021 to 30th June, 2021 as Parliament was fully aware of Covid-19 Pandemic when it passed the Finance Act, 2021. Also, the arguments of the respondents qua non-obstante clause in Section 3(1) of the Relaxation Act, ‘legal fiction’ and ‘stop the clock provision’ are contrary to facts and untenable in law.

Consequently, this Court is of the view that the Executive/Respondents/Revenue cannot use the administrative power to issue Notifications under Section 3(1) of the Relaxation Act, 2020 to undermine the expression of Parliamentary supremacy in the form of an Act of Parliament, namely, the Finance Act, 2021. This Court is also of the opinion that the Executive/Respondents/Revenue cannot frustrate the purpose of substituted statutory provisions, like Sections 147 to 151 of Income Tax Act, 1961 in the present instance, by emptying it of content or impeding or postponing their effectual operation. Keeping in view the aforesaid conclusions, Explanations A(a)(ii)/A(b) to the Notifications dated 31st March, 2021 and 27th April, 2021 are declared to be ultra vires the Relaxation Act, 2020 and are therefore bad in law and null and void.

Consequently, the impugned reassessment notices issued under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 are quashed and the present writ petitions are allowed. If the law permits the respondents/revenue to take further steps in the matter, they shall be at liberty to do so. Needless to state that if and when such steps are taken and if the petitioners have a grievance, they shall be at liberty to take their remedies in accordance with law.”

Respectfully agreeing with the reasonings and views taken by the Allahabad High Court, Rajasthan High Court and Delhi High Court in the cases referred hereinabove, all these Writ Petitions herein are disposed of by allowing the same. Explanations A(a)(ii)/A(b) to the Notifications dated 31st March, 2021 and 27th April, 2021 are declared to be ultra vires the Relaxation Act, 2020 and are therefore bad in law and null and void. All the impugned notices under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act are quashed with liberty to the Assessing Officers concerned to initiate fresh re-assessment proceedings in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act as amended by Finance Act, 2021 and after making compliance of the formalities as required by the law.

Conclusion

The court ruled in favour of the assessee and directoed that all the impugned notices under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act are quashed with liberty to the Assessing Officers concerned to initiate fresh re-assessment proceedings in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act as amended by Finance Act, 2021 and after making compliance of the formalities as required by the law

Read the full order from below

Calcutta-High-Court-quashed-1083-reassessment-notices-and-dismissed-the-Income-Tax-Department-contentions

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